Definition of undertow in US English:



  • 1A current of water below the surface and moving in a different direction from any surface current.

    ‘I was swept away by the undertow’
    • ‘It was like a flood, like being trapped in the undertow of a tsunami.’
    • ‘Jenny screamed, being dragged under by the massive undertow.’
    • ‘Before they know it, they're caught in the undertow.’
    • ‘And, as each wave retreats, there is a vicious undertow.’
    • ‘Yet they delighted in the constant movement of the ocean, fascinated by the pounding waves and pulling undertows.’
    • ‘Sometimes he tells himself he's not going to follow them, but the current is too strong, the undertow too fierce.’
    • ‘But like the undertow of a giant tidal wave, the massive media exposure couldn't exist without a backlash.’
    • ‘Some people mistakenly call this an undertow, but there's no undercurrent, just an offshore current.’
    • ‘It was far away, almost out of sight, and the undertow threatened to pull her down at any moment.’
    • ‘There are some rapids downstream, and one of the kayakers seems to get caught in the undertow for a few minutes.’
    • ‘As a wave lifts him he grips onto a rocky ledge and is pulled back by the undertow.’
    • ‘The undertow here's strong, and it'll sweep you out to sea before you know it.’
    • ‘Raise your arm for help, and float with the current or the undertow.’
    • ‘There's been a high undertow and rip currents there.’
    • ‘Like undertow at a beach, you find yourself being drawn out to places you don't want to be without realizing it.’
    • ‘She hit the sandy ground, and got pulled out with the undertow.’
    • ‘It would be quite possible for the shallow boat, affected only by the top current, to be swept away by a ‘huge mass’ being dragged along by the undertow.’
    • ‘Struggling against the current, he was overcome by the undertow several times before he managed to swim with the child to where the boys waited.’
    • ‘He swam across the river easily, even though the undertow beneath could be fatal to someone who was not a strong swimmer.’
    • ‘The water then withdraws (the backwash) either as undertow (sheetflow near the sea bed) or in localized currents known as rip currents.’
    1. 1.1 An implicit quality, emotion, or influence underlying the superficial aspects of something and leaving a particular impression.
      ‘there's a dark undertow of loss that links the novel with earlier works’
      • ‘There will be no big themes, no gripping emotional undertow, no feeling of the pain.’
      • ‘Amid the laughter, the melodrama and hysteria, this is a play with a terrible, almost frightening undertow of sadness and helplessness.’
      • ‘There is a dark undertow to the book.’
      • ‘Unhappily for your daughter, she is in the undertow of abuse, loss, and possibly guilt.’
      • ‘The undertow of hopelessness threatens to lead many to despair.’